Knitterly Heaven: Fiber Festivals

I went off to Rhinebeck, New York, last weekend, to immerse myself in the fiber world at the huge annual NYS Sheep & Wool Festival. Did I have fun? Does a knitter have dpns under her sofa cushions?

It was fabulous. One llama tried to pick me up and get frisky with me on the first date. The llama kissed me several times on the face, then nuzzled my, uh, chest, then snuggled into my arms. (This caused a riot of giggles from the small folk around the pen.)

So, I tell ya. Llamas these days. No roses, no chocolates, not even a movie. Just kiss -n- nuzzle, then thank you ma’am.

As for me, I tried to be Well Behaved when it came to buying pretty things. I really did. I even managed to keep myself squeaky-clean as far as customs limits goes, although I admit that the total did hit three figures. It was rather worth the look on the customs agent's face, however, as he looked at my customs form when I landed in Toronto:

Customs gent: "How much did you spend while in the States?"

Me: "Blah-de-blah dollars."

Him: "Uh, huh. What did you spend it on?"

Me: "Wool. Oh, and a book."

Him:  stare

Me:  sheepish grin

Him:  recovering   "You spent blah-de-blah dollars on WOOL?"

Me: "Yes, sir. Wool. You know–yarn. And a book, too."

Him:  shaking head  "Are you going to sell all that yarn?"

Me: "No sir. I'm going to knit with it."

Him:  stare

Me:  amused grin, makes knitting motions with hands

Him:  stamps paperwork  "You can go."

So why should you go to a fibre festival? I give you SIX great reasons:

YARN! Yes, there is actual yarn at a fiber fest, not just fleece. There will be so much yarn that you will feel like you have died and gone to Knitter's Heaven. Take your time. Browse around. Breathe deeply. If you feel faint from yarn fumes, go have a cup of hot chili or a big coffee at the 4-H booth.

THE LOCAL FIBRE FOLKS! It is great fun to meet people who make their living creating pretty yarn for us to knit, or producing the fleeces that will become beautiful yarns for us to knit. And then there are the crafts folk (handblown glass needles, carved ball winders, hand-stitched knitting bags) who make so many beautiful things that enhance our knitting joy. A fiber festival allows us not only to meet these talented folk, but to support them financially so they can continue to support their families and to make cool stuff for us!

SEE! TOUCH! SNIFF! Sure, you can buy stuff online, but at a festival, you get to Touch and Fondle. (Yeah, baby.) Colors are their own bright cheery selves in person; you can tell immediately if that green is YOUR green or not. And if you are a spinner, there is no substitute for being able to put your hand into a bag full of luscious fluff. (I petted some Icelandic wool/alpaca/silk fluff and had to be dragged away bodily or I would still be there, petting and cooing softly to it.)

MEET THE KNITTERS. Oh my goodness, the friends you'll meet there. If you are on Ravelry, be sure to wear a nametag with your Ravelry name on it so other Ravelers can find you. Bring friends, meet new ones…and keep an eye out for your favorite designers and bloggers, too!

FUN! There it is folks, the most important reason to go. You will have a TON o' fun, or my name isn't Sandi Wiseheart. Really. Go. Watch the clever sheepdogs outwit the dumb sheep; pet some outrageously soft buffalo fluff; meet angora bunnies who should not be allowed to be That Cute; fondle gorgeous yarns dyed by talented local/indie dyers; eat local treats; and of course: Enhance Your Stash.

And finally, Reason Number 6, which is voiced so eloquently by my friend Mardi that I'll just quote her:

"Even just showing up and only spending $20 is a show of support for this community. The more bodies that walk through that gate, the louder the message is that this is important, that it’s not just a hobby but it’s history and heritage. Represent, people!"

Festival Tips: Wear comfortable shoes; drink lots of water; scope out the restrooms early and often; bring your family; and above all: Decide on a budget ahead of time and stick to it. (Don't forget that YOU are part of the fiber community and it's important to support yourself as well!)

You know you want to go. Rhinebeck's over for this year, but use your keen detecting skills to find out if there is a fiber festival within a day's drive of your home.

The alpacas say: You won't be sorry. Go to a fiber festival and Support the Wool Arts.




Here's the deal: You pick it, I knit it. I need a sweater, so you get to choose the pattern from Interweave's entire family of books and mags. Go for it! My only preference is that I'd like a cardigan rather than a pullover.

Leave your suggestions for The Sweater You Think Sandi Ought to Make For Herself in the comments, and I'll compile a list of your faves–and then you'll all get to vote!

Knit with joy…

– Sandi

P.S. Let me know what you think! You can email me at [email protected] or you can leave a comment.

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